ASU's College of Health Solutions appoints 9 new faculty to advance its mission to improve population health

September 2, 2020

The College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University announces the appointment of nine new research and clinical faculty whose wide-ranging expertise and deep research and clinical experience will advance the college’s translational approach to improving health outcomes in Arizona communities and beyond.

“The College of Health Solutions works to address complex global health challenges which requires intense collaboration, not only among researchers from a variety of disciplines, but also with health organizations and professionals in the communities we serve,” College of Health Solutions Dean Deborah Helitzer said. Health North building at the Downtown Phoenix campus The Health North building, part of the College of Health Solutions at ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus. Download Full Image

“Our mission is twofold: To work with our community partners to bring evidence-based solutions to the health challenges our Arizona citizens face, and to prepare the next generation of health leaders to make a difference by improving health outcomes, better managing health challenges and promoting wellness," Helitzer added.

"This year’s new faculty bring impressive expertise to elevate our programs and address this critical mission.”

Population health

Raminta Daniulaityte

Raminta Daniulaityte is an associate professor of population health.

Her research examines social and behavioral factors that affect the health of people who use illicit drugs.

She employs a variety of research methods, including natural history studies with community-recruited participants, qualitative research, forensic toxicology, social media and web-based sources to characterize and evaluate drug use and trends in targeted communities.

She earned Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in ethnology from Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, Lithuania, and a master’s degree in anthropology and a PhD in social work from the University of Alabama.

Before joining ASU, she was an associate professor and associate director of the Center for Interventions, Treatment and Addictions Research in the Department of Population and Public Health Sciences at the Boonshoft School of Medicine at Wright State University. 

Xing Sherry Zhang

Xing Sherry Zhang, an assistant professor of population health, is a public policy demographer.

Drawing on multiple perspectives and qualitative methods from sociology, public policy, demography and population health, her research focuses on the role of parent-child relationships in shaping young adult health from adolescence to adulthood and how this varies across race, ethnicity, gender and socioeconomic status.

She has a master’s degree in policy and analysis and a Doctor of Philosophy in policy analysis and management with concentrations in racial and ethnic relations and family and social welfare policy from Cornell University.

Movement sciences

Allison Ross

Allison Ross, an assistant professor of exercise and nutritional sciences, joins the College of Health Solutions from ASU’s School of Community Resources and Development where she was a faculty associate and assistant research professor. 

She studies how physical activity in the form of active transportation, play and sport contributes to individual and community health within schools and neighborhoods with a focus on expanding opportunities for youth and promoting a culture of health in schools.

She has a Master of Science in exercise science and sport studies from Springfield College in Massachusetts.

She earned her PhD in community development from ASU’s School of Community Resources and Development in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.


Shu Wang

Shu Wang is a professor of nutrition with more than 20 years of basic science research experience in the areas of chronic diseases and nutrition. 

She was previously an associate professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Texas Tech University where she created biocompatible and biodegradable nanocarriers that enhance the delivery of nutrients and phytochemicals to the body as a way to prevent and treat chronic diseases, especially cardiovascular disease, obesity and Type 2 diabetes. Patents are pending on two of these nanocarriers.

She earned a Bachelor of Medicine at Norman Bethune University of Medical Sciences in Changchun, China, a Master of Science in biochemistry and molecular biology at Capital Medical University in Beijing, and a PhD in nutritional biochemistry and metabolism at Tufts University.

Health care delivery

Rizwana Biviji

Rizwana Biviji is a lecturer in health care delivery.

Her research focuses on maternal and child health informatics and the use of innovative technologies to overcome health care access barriers among prenatal and postpartum women. 

She earned a PhD in health policy and management and a Master of Science in applied health science from Indiana University. 

She also earned a Bachelor of Science in food science and nutrition from Shreemati Nathibai Damodar Thackersey Women’s University in Mumbai, India. 

Integrated behavioral health

Cady Berkel

Cady Berkel, an associate professor of integrated behavioral health, comes to the College of Health Solutions from ASU’s Department of Psychology where she was an associate research professor. 

In that capacity, Berkel collaborated on several projects with Health Solutions faculty, most notably with Rodger Kessler, Matt Buman and Scott Leischow on an Arizona Biomedical Research Commission-funded dissemination and implementation training grant, and with Associate Professor Meg Bruening on the TRANSCEND program, which works to improve nutrition training in the Southwest.

Her research, which has been funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and the United States Department of Agriculture, addresses health disparities through the dissemination and implementation of family-focused, evidence-based programs in health care settings embedded in systems families regularly use. She also co-leads the college’s Maternal and Child Health Translational Team and Dissemination and Implementation Affinity Network. Her PhD in child and family development and an interdisciplinary graduate certificate in qualitative research are from the University of Georgia. 

Tina Sauber

Tina Sauber is a clinical assistant professor of integrated behavioral health and a licensed occupational therapist.

She was previously an assistant professor in physical medicine and rehabilitation and a senior fellow in the Academy of Educational Excellence and Leadership at Mayo Clinic in Arizona. She developed curriculum and taught doctoral-level occupational therapy students on various conditions that impact human performance at Northern Arizona University’s occupational therapy program.

She holds a Bachelor of Science in occupational therapy and a master’s degree in occupational therapy from the University of North Dakota and a Doctor of Occupational Therapy with emphasis on administration and practice management from Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions in Provo, Utah.

Satya Sarma

Satya Sarma is a physician who joins the College of Health Solutions as a clinical associate professor of integrated behavioral health. 

She comes to the college as a medical director from the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS), Arizona’s Medicaid agency, where she continues to have a part-time appointment. She has also been a health care consultant and an executive in managed care settings in the Phoenix metro area.

Her research interests include population health management, health care workforce development, quality improvement, public policy, health care finance, and health equity and integration.

She earned her medical doctorate from Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia and did her internal medicine residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Speech and hearing science

Denise Stats-Caldwell

Clinical Associate Professor Denise Stats-Caldwell is rejoining the College of Health Solutions from clinical practice as a speech-language pathologist at Banner Gateway Medical Center where she initiated the voice rehabilitation program at the Banner MD Anderson Cancer Center.

During her tenure there, she remained involved with the college as adjunct faculty and a mentor to graduate students. Her specialty areas include speech, voice and swallowing rehabilitation in adults with an emphasis on oral, head and neck cancer survivorship.

Earlier in her career, she co-founded the first Arizona chapter of Support for People with Oral, Head and Neck Cancer together with a cancer survivor and initiated the first fiberoptic endoscopic examination of swallowing program with Banner Health.

Kelly Krause

Media and communications manager, College of Health Solutions

Sun Devil solar venture wins grand prize at national competition

September 2, 2020

A federal government contest created to expand solar energy manufacturing in the United States has awarded its grand prize to a startup venture from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.

SunFlex Solar learned on Aug. 28 that it is one of two ultimate winners in the second round of the American-Made Solar Prize, a competition initiated by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Solar Energy Technologies Office. SunFlex Solar wins grand prize at national solar energy competition SunFlex Solar, an ASU engineering startup founded by Zhengshan (Jason) Yu, Barry Hartweg, Kate Fisher and Zachary Holman, was selected as a top winner at the U.S. Department of Energy’s American-Made Solar Prize competition. Image courtesy of SunFlex Solar Download Full Image

The company will receive half a million dollars to develop its novel, low-cost method of enhancing solar panel efficiency, as well as an additional $75,000 in vouchers for technical support from national laboratories and associated fabrication operations.

This major award follows wins during two previous stages of the same competition. SunFlex Solar received $100,000 in prize money as well as another $75,000 in vouchers upon selection as a finalist in late March. Six months earlier, the company won $50,000 as a semifinalist.

SunFlex Solar was co-founded last year by ASU Assistant Research Technologist Kate Fisher, Associate Professor Zachary Holman, Assistant Research Professor Zhengshan “Jason” Yu and doctoral student Barry Hartweg. Their innovation — reflecting three years of intensive research — integrates embossed aluminum foil onto the backs of solar panels in a way that boosts efficiency and reduces cost.

The foursome from the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, one of the six Fulton Schools, say they are excited and grateful for national recognition of their efforts.

“Selection as a winner means the Department of Energy believes that our technology offers viable support to revitalizing photovoltaics manufacturing in the United States,” Yu said. “This prize represents a milestone along our innovation trajectory.”

The company’s next steps involve acquiring new equipment to improve their production process as well as increasing the size of their prototype to commercial scale. Alongside that upsizing, SunFlex Solar needs to prove its innovation will function in real-world conditions. 

“Solar panels need to survive in the elements for many decades, and different aspects of climate affect the various materials of a solar panel in different ways,” Fisher said. “So, there is a series of tests that new products need to pass. We’ll be focusing on the ones that affect the connection points between the solar cells and our new foil technology.”

Fisher said the tests assess the impact of environmental stressors like variations in temperature, exposure to moisture and mechanical flexing from wind or a layer of snow. Fortunately, she says, these conditions can be duplicated in a lab in an accelerated manner, so their venture doesn’t have to wait years to certify its product.

Alongside victory in this competition, SunFlex Solar is excited to enter a new joint development agreement with a commercial partner in Washington state. Details of the deal are not yet released, but initial manufacturing is expected to begin soon.

“We are very excited by this opportunity,” Holman said. “SunFlex Solar will scale our technology to industry-standard, 60-cell modules and secure the required laboratory validation testing. Our new partner will subsequently manufacture a pilot round of 30,000 panels representing 10 megawatts of power.”

Holman says their partner’s plan is then to ramp up annual production to 500 megawatts and eventually to five gigawatts or 15 million solar modules per year. He also says this investment, equating to millions of dollars, would not be possible without the spotlight of the American-Made Solar Prize competition.

“It’s no small feat to capture the attention of an equipment or module manufacturer and ask them to pivot from what they are doing now to take a chance on something new,” Holman said. “So, apart from the prize money, this major award is a cue to potential partners to see a venture as something real and worthy of investment.”

The latest round of this recurring contest began in July and is open to new submissions until Oct. 8. Competitors need to supply materials including a short video identifying a solar energy challenge, a proposed solution and a plan to achieve that solution.

As current competition winners, the principals at SunFlex Solar can offer some helpful advice to new entrants.

“Focus on the business side of your idea,” Holman said. “Use the National Science Foundation’s Innovation Corps methodology of customer discovery. Get people on the phone early in your project, and realize that talking to them doesn’t mean trying to sell the thing that you created. It’s really about trying to understand the market, and how your idea fits in.”

Hartweg agrees that success in the American-Made Solar Prize competition and more broadly requires substantive focus on the business side of technical innovation. This perspective inspired him to pursue his doctoral degree at the Fulton Schools.

“Something that attracted me to ASU is the number of professors who are interested in commercial relevance,” he said. “Many other universities and research programs get very technical and look at really small issues. But I wanted to work on technologies that can really make a difference to industry. That’s exactly what we’re doing here in creating high-efficiency innovation for commercial application. And our success in this competition is validation of that approach.”

Gary Werner

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering